Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Goodale Hints at Possible Changes to RCMP Bill amid Rank-and-File Concerns

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Goodale Hints at Possible Changes to RCMP Bill amid Rank-and-File Concerns

Article excerpt

Liberals trying to allay fears on RCMP bill


OTTAWA - Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says he will present some ideas within the next couple of days to reassure critics who say a government bill entrenches too much power in the RCMP commissioner's office.

Goodale told senators on the national defence and security committee Monday he wants to address fears the labour-relations legislation will hobble rank-and-file RCMP members in their dealings with top brass.

Sen. Larry Campbell, a former Mountie, is among those expressing concerns the bill would deny RCMP members the right to negotiate how the force handles key issues such as discipline, harassment and equipment requirements.

"The members need some kind of reassurance that these exemptions will be dealt with," Campbell said Monday. "As far as I can see right now, this table is tilted toward the commissioner."

Goodale said he wanted time to think through "some kind of mechanism" -- he did not elaborate -- that will satisfy those concerns in a constructive way.

But on the whole he defended the legislation as a strong effort to balance the rights of RCMP members with the safety of Canadians.

Last year, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the right of RCMP officers to collective bargaining and gave the government time to create a new labour-relations regime.

The Liberals tabled legislation that would make independent, binding arbitration the dispute-resolution process for bargaining impasses, with no right to strike.

A steady stream of witnesses told the committee the regime would exclude too many important issues from the bargaining table -- unlike many other collective agreements for police services across Canada.

Critics say festering sores that have plagued the national police force for decades will persist unless members have meaningful input into equipment purchases, staffing levels, grievance processes and the promotion system. …

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